Monday, November 19, 2007

Rain. Sore Throat. Yeats. Bliss.

The ceiling of ChristChurch Cathedral...

It has finally started raining here...we had nearly a month of nice weather (nice for autumn at least)...chilly but often sunny. No more. The sky OPENED yesterday; unfortunately it was the day Mary and Whitney were here to see Oxford. It was too cold to stay outside for long. We took a quick wander around town (can't see too much on a Sunday anyhow) and ended in Christ Church and the Cathedral. As I had not yet been in, I enjoyed it as well...then hot drinks at G&Ds (for you, Colin) and a bit of shopping.

I woke up this morning, however, with a sore throat again. After being pretty sick for more than a week a bit ago, I'm not pleased. And this is a busy week; I have to get a good start on my essay before Friday, do some serious dancing, and be in London Thursday for Thanksgiving.

Speaking of which, Thanksgiving makes me so happy. Mary and Whitney smuggled us canned pumpkin, something of a luxury item in Oxford. There is one known store that carries it, and it runs about $3 a can. I have to make pumpkin pie, chocolate pie, and candied yams, and everyone else is bringing something as well. I think we'll end up doing dinner picnic style on a tablecloth on the floor, as getting tables and chairs for 15 people in Dean's living room on short notice is a stretch.

As I'm under the weather, I've been avoiding the world except for class and dance practice, and staying in bed with my Irish literature. It's not such a bad life.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Old School Oxford?

Before I start this rant, do realize that I am enjoying my program and am glad I am doing it. With that disclaimer, it is so very very different than Scripps, and I am only now beginning to realize the ways in which this is true...

While at Scripps, I thought of it as your basically liberal private college. Perhaps a little more than the average, especially when it came to gender, but not remarkably so. And when I thought of it as liberal, I thought mostly of its everyday politics, not so much of its teaching and curriculum (although perhaps in the Politics Department it was unavoidable).

But coming here, I have realized that as a student at Scripps I was exposed to many more ideas and areas of critical theory than the majority of the students here. Let me rephrase; different ideas. Most of the English students from Britain spent their three undergraduate year studying THE BRITISH CANON and all that entails. For some, that meant the accompanying theory and interdisciplinary subjects. For many, not. And my course is remarkably entrenched in the canon. This is not a bad thing in itself. Although at times I feel that I struggle because as an American I missed out on more Modernism while taking the second half of America Lit (DIE!), it's certainly an area in which I can afford to work a little harder.

But the problem with this focus on THE CANON (I do feel that it needs to be spelled and said in capitals) is that, at least here, it often resists any sort of modern (read: any theory after new historicism) or interdisciplinary approach. I was "warned" after bringing up Marxist literary criticism, and especially warned against using Said for a paper (I have my doubts and will use him anyhow; I am quite capable of being critical of him...). When bringing up French feminists and the ecriture feminine in class yesterday, I am fairly sure that I was one of three people, one of whom was the professor, who knew what I meant. And our 20th Century course seems to trail off, with a few exceptions, around 1950 (i.e. the beginning of the end for Modernism, a favorite focus). My Bibliography instructor, vocally anti-New-Historicist, is having us read Derrida. I'm not actually sure if anyone had before. Sigh. I suppose that's a stretch and underestimates both the students and their programs. But it is the feeling I get...and it frustrates me to no end. Scrippsies, you have it good.